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Posts Tagged ‘dying’

blood of JesusLife patterns change in the face of death. It is rare that a death would have no impact, but it’s possible in the case of a lonely soul, a homeless person. And yet, even they, once discovered, impact the finders. So, now I can’t think of an example of a death not causing some ripples in the fabric of life.

Practically everything in a will hinges on a death. That’s why blood, the evidence of death, is used so much in our tradition, especially regarding forgiveness of sins. [Hebrews 9:22 +/-, The Message]

In Judaeo-Christian traditions, death, symbolized by the shedding of blood, marked covenants and promises, as well as standing in as a symbolic gesture for the forgiveness of transgressions. Blood is a powerful conceptualization and its significance is lost on no one. We all know that without blood, the body cannot survive. Breath is good but blood is life-giving and sustaining.

And most of us understand that the death of Jesus was intended as the ultimate sacrifice, that of God’s son (or God in human form) for the sake of humanity. The death of Jesus changed his followers; the resurrection of Jesus changed the world. Jesus accepted his mission and willingly gave all that he had to give, from power to heal to direct access to God to forgiveness of sins and mistakes for eternity.

SONY DSCThe death of Jesus is a macro event. In my own life, our family has experienced what may seem like a micro event in the face of a dying deity, and yet Mike’s death has changed us all, significantly. We are all seeing more clearly what is important and what matters. When people say “don’t sweat the small stuff,” I never realized before how much small stuff is really out there. I have been majoring in non-essentials. Even my young adult children have shed much of the clutter in their lives and squeezed several years of maturing into a few months. We will never the be the same.

But really, is anyone the same after someone has sacrificed on our behalf? All are affected, the one who gives and the one who receives. Sacrifice is not easy.

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Psalm 143 is filled with urgency and no less in these two verses:

hidingplaceLet the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,

    for I hide myself in you. [Psalm 143:8-9 NIV 2011]

I don’t know this kind of urgency very often. From day to day, I live a life of relative ease. There might be emotional upheavals and drama (after all, I have two young adults still living at home with us), but none of these cause me to burrow into the hiding place of God. I do not live in a foxhole as many people do throughout the world today. Instead, for all I know, I may be luxuriating in pot of water on the stove, getting warmer and warmer, but not realizing I am actually dying.

Well, we all are. From day to day, closer each day to some inevitable transformative moment that will take us out of our bodies in an instant or on a journey of pain and disease, a slower but nonetheless equally lethal end. This is part of living, the dying.

There have been several deaths around me of late: husbands of friends, old friends, passing acquaintances, relatives of colleagues, and on and on the list seems to get longer each year. We have a patron who comes into the library every week to look at the local newspaper for one thing only, to check the obituaries. There is always someone she knows, she has lived in this same community all of her life.

Is the shadow of death the only real urgency in a life? Or, is that merely self-serving to the end?

Or, are we to live with empathy for others in their crisis?

No one can sustain the stress of true crisis for an extended time. The body cannot generate enough adrenalin. I could help by if I knew how to envelop this person in need with the love of God, with the touch of authentic human, with the promise of rest. But then, I must really know what it means to shelter in God before I can bring someone else into the hiding place.

Back in my childhood, I was never very good at playing hide and seek. Either my hiding place was too good (and no one could find me so I would come out – who wants to be alone in a hiding place?) or the spot was too easy and I was found right away. Often, I would keep peeking out just to see what was going on around me. Just in case. And of course, this would be another way I would be pulled free from safety.

And there’s the problem, the human tendency to peek. To hide in God works better as a permanent solution, not just in a state of emergency. If I could stay in the hiding place of God, within the Spirit of Christ, my view of the world would be through a completely different lens. I would see more clearly; I would recognize needs in others; I could envelope and invite them in, for the place is large and plentiful. The hiding place of God knows no limits, nor does it include chains. It’s a choice to remain, just as it is a choice to enter.

So, does the hiding place mean I won’t experience urgency and fear and pain? On the contrary, those moments will still happen, I’m sure of it. The difference is in walking out trauma with an ongoing confidence in the Presence: “We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan” [Romans 8:38, The Voice].

And remaining “in” God. No peeking.

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Martyr has become a dirty word over the last twenty years as Islamic terrorists and extremists have usurped its meaning through rampant suicidal bombings in the name of their God. And yet, even they fit the basic definition: a willingness to suffer or die for a belief or cause. Would I?

Revelation 6:9, 11
When the Lamb broke open the fifth seal, I saw at the foot of the altar the souls of those whose lives had been sacrificed for [adhering to] the Word of God and for the testimony they had borne. . . . [they were] told to rest and wait patiently a little while longer, until the number should be complete of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
[Amplified]

And there’s yet another negative definition for martyr, that one who seeks attention by feigning or exaggerating pain. Sometimes, it’s just a person who dramatically takes on the weight of any project with great long suffering. It’s a sham.

How has this word and its intended meanings gotten so distorted?

Of course, not every martyr must die to show his or her strength in following the heart of God. Many are persecuted today in various closed or restricted countries for their faith such as China, Zimbabwe, Eastern European countries like Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, Muslim countries where western faith is scorned, and so on. These men and women are often imprisoned for basic activities such as prayer, bible reading or distribution, and corporate gatherings. Other martyrs are those work with the poor and sick such as Mother Teresa, William Booth (Salvation Army), David Livingstone (Africa), and Corrie Ten Boom [see more]. They are following an inner vision, a knowing that this is the way they must walk.

In John’s time, martyrdom had become a norm for the Christ follower, in fact, persecution and execution continued up through the 4th century until the time of Constantine. These deaths were not the result of a person’s actions, but merely by their affiliation. Other faiths and peoples have experienced this same kind of broad swathe of death, such as the Jews in Russian pogroms and throughout World War II, or the genocide of Rwandan Hutus in 1994 or African-Americans in our country. The list goes on and on.

So, there are two questions in all of this? Would I have the courage to stand for my faith in the face of death? And secondly, why must it be necessary?

In John’s vision, the implication is that more would die. Apparently, that magic number has yet to be reached.

Even in today’s pop culture, there’s this idea that a lover would die for another:

I’d catch a grenade for ya (yeah, yeah, yeah)
Throw my hand on a blade for ya (yeah, yeah, yeah)
I’d jump in front of a train for ya (yeah, yeah , yeah)
You know I’d do anything for ya (yeah, yeah, yeah)
Oh, oh
I would go through all this pain
Take a bullet straight through my brain
Yes, I would die for ya baby
But you won’t do the same . . . [Bruno Mars]

But really, isn’t it all just a type of posturing?

And yet, some men and women do enter the armed forces and put their lives on the line. Perhaps some don’t really believe they will die but others know, the possibility is there and something inside drives them. They are called heroes. It’s an idealism, a sense of sacrifice for the sake of the many, a belief in good and evil. Is my faith so strong?

How many more must die?

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